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Developer plans 154 units of student housing near UB North Campus

A developer plans to build 154 units of student housing on North Forest Road, about one mile north of the University at Buffalo North Campus in Amherst.

Core Spaces, which has offices in Chicago and Austin, Texas, wants to build a four-story, residential building on three parcels that total 5.4 acres at North Forest and Bryant Woods South, according to an application filed with the town Planning Department.

The properties are located just south of the Lockport Expressway, about half a mile north of the Weinberg Campus senior housing complex and a mile north of the Ellicott Complex dorms at the tip of the UB campus.

It is the latest proposal for off-campus housing to come to the town, which has seen apartments serving college students rise over the past dozen years on Sweet Home, Chestnut Ridge and Rensch roads – all in the shadow of the UB North Campus.

"To the extent that there's demand, I'm in favor of more of these projects," said Steven Sanders, the deputy town supervisor and a member of the Amherst Industrial Development Agency.

However, the developments need to be in the right location, and not too close to neighboring residences, and they shouldn't poach students from on-campus housing, Sanders said.

Other recent student-housing projects near the UB North Campus include:

  • A development named Twenty 91 North, on 28 acres at 100 Herron Drive near Sweet Home Road. Two partners, Harrison Street Real Estate Capital and University Student Living, planned to spend $30 million on the 192-unit complex. Work began in 2015 and finished up last year.
  • Villas on Rensch, the third of three major developments built by American Campus Communities. This complex of about 150 units, or 610 beds, at 100 Villas Drive East sits near the corner of Rensch Road and Sweet Home Road. It opened in 2012.

Sanders said he would prefer that student housing be built on the campus grounds, because UB then retains jurisdiction over the student residents. He conceded off-campus student housing adds to the town's tax base, but he said there's a trade-off in terms of additional police calls to the properties compared to a typical apartment complex.

"It's a mixed blessing," Sanders said.

The latest project requires rezoning two parcels, at 2949 North Forest and 2925 North Forest, from suburban agriculture to general commercial, which would allow for multi-family residential use.

A third parcel, at 2915 North Forest, is zoned properly but needs deed restrictions removed because it is part of the Bryant Woods Office Park, said Eric Gillert, Amherst’s planning director.

In total, 3.9 acres need rezoning. The project requires amending the town’s Audubon development plan, Gillert said.

The wooded site is vacant now. The developers would leave half an acre of federally protected wetlands and an acre of lawn.

The project, known as the Hub at Amherst, includes 105 underground parking spaces and 215 surface parking spaces for 320 in all.

If the project receives the required rezoning and site plan approvals, work would begin this year and be completed in 2019.

The Hub at Amherst is meant to appeal to students attending the nearby university.

Core Spaces has developed high-end, off-campus housing across the country. They’ve built projects on their own, or with partners, with student-friendly amenities near the main campuses of the University of Minnesota, the University of Arizona, the University of Oregon and the University of Wisconsin, among others.

This is Core Spaces’ first project in this region.

Jeffery D. Palumbo, a lawyer with Barclay Damon, filed the application on Core Spaces’ behalf. The Amherst Planning Board could take up the project at its February meeting.

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